Nicaragua is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after surf destinations in Central America.
It’s cheaper than Costa Rica and Panama and rumored to have 300+ days per year of offshore winds and consistent swells. Mix this with its lively culture and beautiful scenery, it’s no surprise how I got stuck here for 2 months traveling around the country chasing some of the best surf spots around.
With all travel, logistics are one of the things that must be met with time + care. Public transportation is not always available, certain spots are not easily accessible and a little planning can go a long way, especially in Central America.
So I put together a list of some of the best surf breaks around Nicaragua, along with recommendations on where to stay when trekking out to them.
1. Location: Aserradores
To the north, the Aserradores region offers less crowded breaks for experienced surfers, and is most popular during the dry season (November to April).
Chances are you’re not going to find anyone else surfing when you are – but this is largely due to the fact that the region is not anywhere near as developed as most places in the South.
It’s worth the trek, however – close to Chinandega and not far from the bustling city of Leon – it’s quiet, secluded and not much else to do but eat, sleep, surf and get to know the kind locals who live in the nearby tiny fishing villages.
Break: The Boom
The Boom is a particularly heavy beach, so if you want ledges, over-vertical drop-ins, sucking flats and really gnarly barrels, come here.
It’s often compared to Hossegor without the crowds and Puerto Escondido without the size capability. Many peaks set themselves up along a sandy beach throwing up A-frames in shallow water providing some epic barrels.
It’s best to go out in the mornings as the wind is not offshore all day here.
photo: Thunderbomb Surf Camp
Where To Stay:
Thunderbomb Surf Camp is directly located on the picturesque beach of Santa Maria Del Mar – beautifully secluded and chances are there is no one else there but you.
When the winds are good, you can surf right out front. The camp is about a one and a half hours drive away from Leon.
Packages are all-inclusive of accommodation, food, drink (yes, beer!), transportation to and from some of the best breaks in Nicaragua (bus + 4×4) and lots of good times.
Being that the surrounding location is so underdeveloped – staying at a surf camp in this area comes with the convenience of having everything – from food to surf transport – taken care of for you.
For some awesome surf videos + photos, follow @thunderbombsurfcamp on instagram.
photo: Thunderbomb Surf Camp
2. Location: Popoyo
Slightly south of Aserradores, Popoyo houses over a dozen breaks, but not much else besides surf.
Travel down to Popoyo by bus, or up from San Juan Del Sur via bus or taxi (around 40 USD). It’s a small surf town, just one main dirt road along the beach.
There is no supermarket (just one or two tiny mom and pop markets) and the closest ATM is a 30-45 minute walk from the main dirt road.
Cook your own food with some of the produce you buy from the local fruit + vegetable truck that drives down the road several times a day, or stop by one of the cafes or local restaurants set up along the road.
Break: Popoyo Reef
This powerful reef break goes both left and right (the left is usually better) and offers long, powerful walls and sometimes a thick barrel section. It’s very consistent and magnifies even the smallest swell.
As you might imagine, it is extremely crowded on most days, anywhere from 10-30 people on only one peak. This wave also breaks over shallow reef, so take that into consideration as well.
It’s a very consistent reef break that is fast and powerful. It works on smaller swells but can also hold double overhead waves.
If the swell gets really big, the outer reef starts to pump, which will hold up to triple overhead swells. Pro surfers from all over the world have been known to travel here just for this wave.
Break: Lance’s Left
Lance’s Left is a long left point break breaking in front of a picturesque cliff.
Difficult access requires hiring a boat from Playa Gigante or Astillero, but it’s possible to hike in from Astillero. Hire a cab from Popoyo for around 10-15 USD and walk 15-20 minutes around the cliff and jump in from the rocks.
Watch out for petty car theft here if you decide to drive + park in the nearby fishing village.
It is a consistent wave fun for all levels of surfers. It is much more convenient by boat, saving you a long walk and a long paddle. It’s slopey when it is small, and has faster sections and occasional almond shaped barrels when there is a larger swell. This spot can handle large surf.
You are most likely to get your longest ride in Nicaragua here with legitimate rides 300 meters long or longer.
Where To Stay:
Choose from loads of simple surf hostels along the main dirt road along the beach – dorm beds to private rooms from 8-40 USD / night, respectively. Or splurge a little and stay at the Magnific Rock hotel – featuring phenomenal views perched at the top of a cliff, located a short drive away from the main road.
3. Location: Playa Colorado
Playa Colorado is a private beach and is accessed by either staying inside Hacienda Iguana (a private beach and golf resort) or by boat.
Break: Playa Colorado
photo: Constantin Witt Dorring
A classic barreling wave, Playa Colorado is easily considered one of the best in Nicaragua. It is a rivermouth break that is typically a left hand wave, but can also be a right.
The wave starts breaking at waist high and can go on breaking in double overhead swells. The wave is powerful and produces clean barrels.
From May to August during a good swell, expect to surf with 50 plus people, most likely very good surfers.
All the rental properties have caused this spot to become over populated, but you most likely won’t be surrounded by beginners or intermediates. There are no budget hostels in the area and therefore filters out a lot of traveling surfers not eager to spend more money on accommodation.
Where To Stay:
The most convenient (although quite expensive) option is to get a group of people and rent a vacation home or apartment through Iguana Surf Rentals, since the break is on a private beach only accessible to guests of the resort.
4. Location: San Juan Del Sur
Further south, you’ll find the most diverse and electrifying town in Nicaragua: the party hub of San Juan del Sur (SJDS). No place in Nicaragua comes close to the convenience + abundance of cuisine, nightlife and invigorating atmosphere of SJDS.
Over the years, the fishing village of San Juan del Sur has become a cruise port and seaside resort, popular with Nicaraguan teenagers as much as gringo surfers.
The surf isn’t very good within the city’s horseshoe-shaped bay, but many spots are accessible from here.
Break: Playa Maderas
The beach break of Playa Maderas is probably the best around San Juan Del Sur. Very consistent, sometimes hollow – it is also unfortunately the most crowded.
Chances are you won’t fear for your life surfing here, but the heaps of beginners taking lessons in the front may fear for theirs. While it is still easy to get waves here, it is unlikely you will be surfing alone. On its most crowded day, expect to find more than 30+ people in the water with you.
The best tide is usually, mid-incoming, but high tide down to mid-outgoing also breaks well at times. It is rarely good at dead low.
There are two main peaks at Maderas. The primary peak is a peeling right hander that breaks in the middle of the beach, in front of the north end of the parking area. The very next peak to the south comes the opposite direction and is usually a bit shorter and faster, but still a peeling left hander.
Since Maderas is usually a broad mix of beginners just learning to surf, locals and traveling surfers who are staying in San Juan Del Sur, the vibe is typically mellow and low key. Do not expect to get barreled here, but do expect to have a solid fun time.
Break: Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa is located south of the town of San Juan del Sur.
It’s about 12 kilometers from town or about a 20 minute drive. The waves remain relatively uncrowded compared to other breaks in the area because of a small entrance fee (included in your shuttle).
There will be anywhere from 5 to 7 peaks along the long stretch of white sand beach – Playa Hermosa is one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the area.
There are left and rights, so it’s a paradise for goofy and natural footers alike.
There are a few small restaurants on the beach, with loads of hammocks and even showers.
Where To Stay:
There are numerous hostels and hotels in and around San Juan Del Sur. Although a bit inconvenient (compared to being able to wake up and walk to the break), most hostels and local shops in the area offer daily shuttles to and from most beaches (ranging from 5-10 USD).
Stay in town to have the conveniences of abundant food, shops and nightlife – then catch a shuttle to the break of your choice the next morning (or afternoon).